IPhone 6s Plus
Will this update to Apple’s fulsome phone prove that bigger is better?
Yes, the plus-size iPhone is still huge. Really big. If you tried the 6 Plus last year and found it simply too large for how you like to use a phone (or for your pockets, which is honestly a potential problem), then you can probably stop reading this review here. In fact, the 6s Plus is a tiny bit thicker than its predecessor, and 20 grams heavier – but if you’re someone who prefers what the biggest iPhone and its 5.5-inch, 1920x1080-pixel display offers, the 6s Plus has some very nice tricks up its sizeable sleeve.
The fanciest new addition is, of course, 3D Touch. Just like on the iPhone 6s, it takes a bit of getting used to – it’s a way of interacting we just haven’t had on our phones before, and have only had on anything else for six months – but it’s often fantastically useful when you do remember to use it. The Peek action is especially useful on
the 6s Plus. In the old days, if you opened a link then wanted to go back, you had to work to reach the top of the screen (or invoke Reachability), or stretch across the phone’s considerable width to swipe back. Now, you don’t even need to open the link in the first place. Just press lightly, see the picture, website, calendar entry or whatever, then let go.
As with the 6s, 3D Touch makes one-handed use much more viable. That said, it’s often not easy to activate the multitasking 3D Touch gesture (where you press hard on the left edge of the screen and swipe to the right) on the Plus with one hand – between the distance you need to reach and keeping the phone balanced, we just couldn’t do it reliably.
Also, while we alluded to it at the start, it’s worth talking about what the huge 5.5-inch screen on the 6s Plus gives you that even the 6s’s 4.7‑inch one doesn’t. It’s Apple’s highest-density screen, which makes it astonishingly detailed. It’s a Full HD display, so videos look beautiful on it. But the extra size isn’t just for the sake of being bigger – turn it to landscape and many apps end up looking like their iPad equivalents, adding things like extra scrolling panes, so you can have your email inbox next to the currently open message. The keyboard is more comprehensive too. It all combines to mean you can actually be more productive on the 6s Plus than with smaller iPhones (to some degree, at least). It sits somewhere between iPhone and iPad, and while some people will be happier keeping those concepts separate, for others it’s absolutely the Goldilocks device.
One of the biggest reasons to pick up an iPhone 6 Plus last year was that it offered significantly better battery life than the regular iPhone 6. It was easily the difference between running out before the end of a day of heavy use and still having some juice to spare. But, while you might hope the 6s Plus being slightly thicker than its predecessor means Apple has accommodated even more battery space, it actually has a slightly smaller and lower capacity battery. Energy savings elsewhere mean that it still gets the same kind of battery life as last year’s model, and it still beats out the smaller 6s – but sadly there’s no marked improvement in longevity. Still, that means it remains the joint-best option for iPhone battery life, and you can eke even more out of it with iOS 9’s Low Power Mode.
It’s also, of course, Apple’s joint-most-powerful iPhone along with the 6s, packing in an astonishingly powerful A9 processor. Every year, we find it hard to imagine Apple could add any noticeable speed to the iPhone, yet every year it does. Apps launch faster than ever, and moving about the system is extremely snappy.
The upgrade to 2GB of RAM is important as well, because it means things like Safari tabs don’t need to to reload as often (a real bugbear of ours in the past), and apps and games are more likely to be able to pick up in the exact spot you left them. Even the most demanding games run fantastically well, naturally. And, if you are going for more complex tasks in professional
apps, it handles those deftly too – from fast photo editing in Pixelmator to swiftly editing 4K video in iMovie.
Like the iPhone 6s, the 6s Plus is capable of capturing 4K video – at a whopping resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. However, the 6s Plus has a bonus over the 6s. Just like last year’s models, only the Plus features an optical image stabiliser (OIS) for the camera – but in the 6 Plus it was only used for still images in low light. Now, it’s used for videos too, and the difference is glorious. It works by sensing your hand’s involuntary motions using the M9 co-processor, and then making tiny compensatory movements to the camera sensor using miniscule electromagnetic motors around its edge.
The result is handheld video that’s almost completely without the telltale wobbles and twitches that normally mar it. Indeed, it’s almost eerie at times – but it looks
The 2GB of RAM upgrade is important as well, because it means things like Safari tabs don’t need to to reload as often
wonderfully clean and professional without any effort on your part.
We haven’t even talked about the overall video quality yet, which is fantastic – crisp, clear, bright and colourful. Quite simply, you could use the iPhone 6s Plus for some professional video work, and no one would know the difference. The 4K option is great, but admittedly limited in practical use right now – YouTube is the only export option that actually keeps the 4K resolution. However, if you’re planning to make your final video 1080p, recording in 4K is still useful because it means you can zoom in by up to 2x when editing without actually losing any detail – a first for the iPhone.
The image stabiliser works for lowlight stills too, and really does help to get slightly sharper, brighter shots indoors. If you’re especially keen on iPhone photography and video, this should tip you over into considering the Plus over the regular 6s (but be sure to get the 64GB model at least).
So, with that advantage, is this the better of the two new models? They’re equally good, just different – the bonus of the better battery life and OIS comes with a significant increase in size and weight. If you prefer a phone that’s thinner, lighter and more pocketable, go with the 6s. For longevity, the best possible camera, or just the larger screen, and if you don’t mind the heft, you’ll be delighted with what the 6s Plus has to offer. Matt Bolton
Our thanks to Three for supplying the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus for review. To see deals and tariffs, go to three.co.uk. Three – rated the UK’s most reliable network by YouGov.
That extra bit of weight and thickness means the 6s Plus is the biggest iPhone yet.